Daniel Boulud doesn’t need me or any other writer to sing his praises or cement his place in American gastronomy. For 30 years he has been a one-man French Revolution — educating and dazzling palates with the best of La Cuisine Français, as well as introducing America to the joys of the gourmet burger.
When he left the Wynn in July, 2010, no one shed more tears than yours truly. When he returned to Vegas in 2014 with db Brasserie, no one in town (besides maybe Venetian/Palazzo F & B honcho Sebastien Silvestri) was more excited.
And when db Brasserie slid into being a soulless, tepid, copy-of-a-copy of a Daniel Boulud restaurant, no one was more disappointed than me.
So disappointed in fact, that I pretty much wrote the place off as just another corporate branding operation.
What went wrong? Well, that was a real head-scratcher. We always thought the concept was off (in that there really wasn’t one) and that the place had no identity other than being an amalgam of Boulud recipes. And everything from the decor to the menu seemed to be designed by committee, rather than having a personality of its own. (If you’ve eaten in Boulud’s restaurants in New York City, you know each of them fairly sings with distinctiveness.) So, after the original chefs got the old heave ho, and after two ho-hum meals in a row, it was bye bye Boulud for us.
But then things changed. Boy, did they ever. Not so much with the menu (still a bit too all-over-the-map) but with the execution.
Starting this past fall, the platings started to seem brighter and the sauces seemed sharper, and the flavors started to evoke Parisian nights and sidewalk cafes, not casino facsimiles of French-ness.
You can credit all this vividness to Vincent Pouessel, a fellow who has this food in his DNA and clearly knows how to translate his boss’s vision into palate-popping crowd pleasers.
Pouessel was top toque at Aureole for decade and took over this kitchen six months ago. He is no stranger to feeding large numbers of conventioneers, but also has the chops to execute a textbook-perfect, rolled Petrale Sole with Sauce Dugléré while dividing the classic wine sauce in two – one flavored with tomato, one with parsley):
…the whole greater than the sum of its parts, with the whole shebang reminding you why you fell in love with French food in the first place.
What’s also not hard to fall in love with is Pouessel’s Alsatian flatbread (aka tarte flambée) — a dead ringer for what I ate with the Food Gal® all across Alsace:
It was so good I’m going to suggest that Pouessel and Eric Klein at Spago have a tarte flambée contest someday, where I can stuff myself silly with their competing bacon, onion and fromage blanc pies until the cows come home.
Everything about this place now seems to be running on all cylinders, and they’ve even reconfigured the lounge (that makes some superb cocktails, btw) to make it more inviting.
These days, we’re content with an invitation to Poussel’s seared foie gras with pomegranate:
…as good a treatment as you’ll find in our humble burg, and one that tastes like someone in the kitchen finally cares.
As good as those are, what really got our attention — besides all of the above and the 5-7 pm oyster happy hour — were the desserts, starting with the souffle at the top of the page, and continuing through this exercise in eclair excellence:
Everyone was as caloric as ever, but also a tad more restrained — exhibiting a chef’s desire to stress refinement over histrionics. Not that restraint is always a formula for success in Vegas (we are, after all, a town not known for its sophistication), but what the whole meal exhibited was a firmer hand at the stoves.
As we patted our happy belly and took a last swoop at the soufflé, all we could do is thank our lucky stars that dbB is back, and that Daniel Boulud had the good sense to hire Vincent Pouessel, and that both of them will be feeding Vegas (and us) for a long time to come.
HAPPY NEW YEAR from our staff!
In the Venetian Hotel and Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109